The desire to become a personal trainer isn’t the first business idea the average person thinks of — it takes years of personal testimony and self-transformation to feel confident in your ability to help others achieve their fitness goals to then turn it into a business.
Whether it’s warming up on a treadmill, finding the perfect form for push-ups, or helping people modify positions to avoid injury, your expertise is a gift to be shared with people ready to embark on a total mind, body, and lifestyle transformation.
So, how do you turn that passion into a business? Moreover, are you someone who can do it?
The truth is, there’s no single correct answer to that question. The good news is, if the idea excites you, that’s a very good sign. But there are important things to consider before you take a deep dive into entrepreneur life.
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What Will Be Your Specialty?
Being a professional trainer opens the door to a lot of pathways. You could specialize in weightlifting, HIIT, barre, or anything else of interest. But if you want to start a successful business, it pays to narrow down what your specialties are so that you get the customers — and projects — you actually want.
Stick to a few specialties instead of trying to teach everything. Some of the best personal trainers are highly specialized, plus customers may feel more comfortable with you if they know you’re the master of a specific exercise.
Some people despise cardio and want someone who knows how to transform their body through weightlifting and resistance training. Others avoid the weight room like the plague and want minimal weight work involved in their workout. There are also people who need to be having fun in order to exercise, so they’re looking for an inspiring Zumba class. If you specialize in just a couple of areas, you’ll find more people who want exactly what you can offer.
Side note: If you decide to be a personal trainer who also works in a local gym, you should have a strong understanding of how the gym equipment works.
Is There a Market for Your Services?
One of the most common mistakes that personal trainers make is that they don’t get a good sense of market demand. And if you don’t know how many other personal trainers you’re competing with or if there are enough customers for the services you offer, you’re running the risk of making that mistake, too.
So how can you tell if there’s a good market for your personal training business? You could do some online research, but we’ll cut the learning curve down for you. Take a look at this article, which calculates the best cities for an active lifestyle based on budget, participation, sports, and outdoors.
Take a look at the city or town you live in, and see what other fitness options there are. Is there a lot of demand for exercise? What gyms or boutique fitness studios are around?
Don’t just pay attention to exercise — also notice the healthy eating patterns; is it common for people to eat healthfully? Are there any organic juice bars around that are popular?
Exercise is part of a wellness lifestyle, so make sure this is something people care about. Otherwise, you may be wasting your time training in your city. But don’t let that be the end for you — check neighboring towns/cities because you may find that your market is a short drive away.
Are You Prepared to Run Your Business?
Becoming a successful personal trainer means you’re going to do other work besides training people. You’ll be a bookkeeper, a lawyer, an office manager, and a marketer — and that’s just what you can expect on a daily basis. Just because this is not a corporate desk job in a cubicle, that doesn’t mean the office work is out the window.
If you want a personal training business that will stand the test of time, you’ll need to account for all of this extra work. During your first few months of business, you’ll rarely spend an eight-hour day solely working with clients in a gym or other location. Just consider all the tasks you’ll need to complete in order to tackle your first job:
This information isn’t meant to dissuade you from starting your personal training business; it’s designed to help you prepare for the most successful start possible. Expect and plan to put in a lot of admin work now, rather than fitting it in after a long day of work. That’s when you could potentially run into trouble.
Do You Have Seed Money to Start With?
Starting a personal training business can be expensive, even if you already have workout equipment at hand.
Think about it: It costs money to register your business, get insurance coverage, pay for the right marketing, drive to work every day, etc. Even if you have a lot in savings, starting a business could take a much larger chunk of money from your bank account if you aren’t prepared for it.
And if you don’t already have the savings, we recommend that you track down a source of funding to get your business off the ground.
If you need to get a business loan, you’ll need a strong proposal to get help from an outside source. You could try getting investors, but keep in mind that you’ll need to repay the loan, so really think it through before you take that route.
If you’re using personal funding or a line of credit to finance your business, map out your expenses so you don’t inadvertently overspend. Save all your receipts and track all business-related expenses, as many of these will be tax-deductible.
Is There a Personal Training Business That You Admire?
Other people in your industry can be extremely helpful — especially if they’re already doing things right and doing them the way you want them to. This doesn’t mean you should outright copy someone’s business — you need to be more creative and unique than that, especially if you want to stand out.
However, that doesn’t mean inspiration doesn’t go a long way — it’s a great way to figure out the kind of personal training business you want to run.
Successful personal training businesses have (largely) achieved these crucial first steps for starting a business, so it’s worth deciding if you should follow in their footsteps. During your competitive research, don’t forget to:
It’s worth noting again that you should be keeping an eye on how many personal trainers there are in your specific area. If you’re finding a lot of personal training businesses, you might want to return to the second question in this section (“Is there a market for your services?”) and analyze your competition.
If the person you aspire to emulate is in another town or specializes in a different exercise, there could be an opportunity for cross-promotion. Just make sure you do your research first to make sure you won’t be competing for clients.
Are You a People Person?
You may be really good at exercising, but coaching is a whole other job. You need to know how to work well with people from all walks of life, especially if you want to make money. You can’t be too selective with whom you want to work with, or the personality types you get along with. With every person you meet, you need to maintain these qualities:
Again, just because you know how to exercise and put together training programs, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are fit for the one-on-one experience of personal training. Think about how well you get along with people in general — so if you think personal training is the place to show off yourself, this is the wrong business for you. No client should feel that you are condescending or cocky.
You also can’t be too shy — as a trainer, you’ll need to be able to communicate clearly and confidently. Plus, you need to feel comfortable to make hands-on adjustments when other people are exercising.
After asking yourself these questions and being honest with yourself, you’ll know if this is a career path you should pursue or not. If opening a business is too much, then consider joining a gym or fitness studio and start with becoming an instructor instead!
When she’s not writing for SB, Pauline runs an intuitive healing business... and is still writing as she types up psychic readings! As she was raised by entrepreneurs, she knows what it takes to be a small business owner.
Pauline writes on a number of topics such as small business owner resources, marketing, and customer service and retention.
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